Dyslexia bill introduced in Tennessee legislature

Dyslexia bill introduced in Tennessee legislature

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"They teach the teachers to look for signs, and early screening, and they provide testing and all the things that really help give the parents the tools they need to understand it,' said mother Stephanie Erb. "They teach the teachers to look for signs, and early screening, and they provide testing and all the things that really help give the parents the tools they need to understand it,' said mother Stephanie Erb.
Emily Dempster has a 15-year-old son with dyslexia and has been fighting for the bill, which was filed Wednesday by State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and Rep. Cameron Sexton. Emily Dempster has a 15-year-old son with dyslexia and has been fighting for the bill, which was filed Wednesday by State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and Rep. Cameron Sexton.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Two state lawmakers from our area have filed a bill in Nashville to help children with dyslexia. Supporters of the bill say the reading disorder isn't even recognized in Tennessee public schools and teachers don't know how to deal with it.

The bill defines what dyslexia is: a learning disability that causes difficulty with word recognition and spelling. The bill also calls for teachers to be trained in college and on the job about the best way to work with students who have this diagnosis.

The Erb family moved to Tennessee a year and a half ago. Their youngest son, Cameron, was diagnosed with dyslexia at his school in Texas.

"They teach the teachers to look for signs, and early screening, and they provide testing and all the things that really help give the parents the tools they need to understand it,' said mother Stephanie Erb.

She was shocked by the lack of dyslexia knowledge and resources in Tennessee schools.

"There's nothing. It's not acknowledged. It's not understood. The word is not even brought up in an official conference," Erb says.

It's a problem others have also faced. Emily Dempster has a 15-year-old son with dyslexia and has been fighting for the bill, which was filed Wednesday by State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and Rep. Cameron Sexton.

"There are so many people and kids who don't understand why they're struggling with reading and we really hope this will give them answers," Dempster said. "And we hope even if one teacher finds out what dyslexia is or goes to a training and learns some techniques that she can take back to her classroom, that would be beneficial to so many people."

Erb says her son still manages to thrive in school despite his diagnosis, thanks to coping skills he learned in Texas and private tutors they hired here. But she knows not every family has those benefits.

"That's why this bill is so important," Erb said. "So the people of Tennessee have the same advantage that I did."

Massey said one in five people have some form of dyslexia.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about dyslexia and one of the important things Senate Bill 2002 does is recognize the universally accepted definition of dyslexia.  It is important that Tennesseans are able to discuss this issue and define the disorder consistently to help dispel misunderstandings. This will ultimately make sure the right students are getting the right interventions.  We need to understand exactly what dyslexia is and how it affects the learning process," Massey said.

In response to this story, Knox County Schools said, "The Knox County Schools, along with other school districts in Tennessee, currently serves children with dyslexia who require supports beyond the general education program under federal disability category of specific learning disability. Teacher training is provided on research-based instructional reading strategies to general education and special education teachers in the Knox county schools.   We haven't fully examined the legislation, so it is premature to comment on it at this point."

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